Cell phone announcement expected Thursday

Joe Spina, parliamentary assistant to Northern Development and Mines minister Chris Hodgson, is slated to announce here Thursday morning that the $4.75-million Northwest Cellular project will receive a $1.75-million loan from the Northern Ontario Heritage Funding Corp., the Times has learned.
Now with the good possibility the loan will be granted, the Town of Fort Frances will be required to come up with $1 million as its share as a member of the consortium–a commitment it has yet to confirm.
“When the time comes, that decision will be made by council,” Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said yesterday afternoon.
In the case of the Town of Atikokan, which faces a $500,000 share as part of the consortium if the NOHFC loan comes through, the costs will be covered through a restructuring of its hydro commission.
“With the deregulation of Ontario Hydro, we’re allowed to set up a small corporation,” Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown noted Tuesday.
“We have planned ahead and are positive about the possibility of landing this funding,” he added. “The council really believes it could be a potential revenue generator.”
Thunder Bay Mobility will provide the other $1.5 million to order equipment and lease the cell towers.
If all partners ante up, a cell site will be operational in Fort Frances by June and in Atikokan shortly thereafter.
The rest of the area then will be connected, starting at Rainy River, to ultimately connect with the Thunder Bay cell sites–providing a cell phone corridor from Thunder Bay to Rainy River, and as far north as Morson and Nestor Falls.
The Northwest Cellular project has been in the works since last spring.